Sep 25, 2012
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Gianfranco Ferre defiant in Milan despite legal storm

Sep 25, 2012

MILAN - Italian designers label Gianfranco Ferre was defiant in the face of uncertainty over its future on Monday, with a Milan fashion week show which excelled in striking geometric cuts and rich fabrics.

Gianfranco Ferre - SS 2013 / Photo: Pixel Formula

It was the brand's last catwalk at its historic Via Pontaccio headquarters, but the ugly legal battle surrounding the struggling label's prospects was temporarily forgotten as a seductive spring/summer 2013 collection emerged.

Designers Federico Piaggi and Stefano Citron, who joined Ferre at the end of last year, unveiled their second collection for the house which emphasised the feminine silhouette but was strong on structure, with playful layers and cuts.

In colour terms, it was minimalist: white and black, broken up only by gold or silver leafy belts, bronze metal bracelets, or gold high heels.

Lapels on suit jackets were worn asymmetrically, wide or long and pointy. Wide trousers were broken up with panels in the seams in python, leather and silks, and dresses had wide sleeves on one side, pinned to maintain rigidity.

The collection -- inspired, the brand said, by the "feminine intuition in the photographs of Guy Bourdin" -- was warmly applauded and the designers bowed without making any nod to the controversy surrounding the label's ownership.

Reports that the label's new owners were planning to move it to Dubai have been flatly denied, but the brand did confirm it will be leaving Via Pontaccio.

The label was rescued from bankruptcy in 2011 by the Dubai-based Paris Group retailer, which promised to invest vast amounts to revamp the ailing brand.

Concern grew in the months following the sale when the new owners ousted the design team and fired executives, and Ferre's prospects look uncertain.

Commissioners appointed by the Italian state to oversee the company's sale have accused the Paris Group, which is owned by the Sankari family, of failing to implement growth plans, particularly after it began closing Ferre stores.

They have appealed to a Milan court in a bid to confiscate the label and prevent further damage from being done. But in a furious note published by Paris Group last week, the retailer blamed circumstances out of its control.

It said it has been forced to give up the Milan headquarters because of a previous agreement made between the Ferre family and the commissioners -- though there have been reports suggesting the group has fallen behind on rent.

The retailer also accused the commissioners of having sold the rights to use the brand's name to "an offshore company in the Virgin Islands at a price well below the label's market value," in a deal that only runs out in 2026.

Ferre ran into difficulty following the death of its founder Gianfranco Ferre -- known as 'the architect of Italian fashion' for his clean, angular lines -- and was forced into government-backed bankruptcy in 2009.

The brand's new chief executive officer, Mohamad Iyad Jalab, told Women's Wear Daily on Friday that he was in talks with Italy's fashion week organisers to hold the next catwalk show in February 2013 in a central Milan location.

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